Tales from the Jugular

Reaching the Breaking Point on Modern Metal

By: Eric Compton
Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Tales From The Jugular - Reaching the Breaking Point

Okay, your favorite metal scribe, your's truly, EC, has really reached his breaking point with today's modern metal sounds. In some ways I feel partly at fault for allowing things to get this far out of control. Of course I was caught up in the Gothenburg sounds of the mid-'90s. I greatly enjoyed the works of Arch Enemy, At The Gates, and of course In Flames. Being the supporter of fine metal bands, and a self-named "Knower Of All Things Heavy", it was my duty and honor to provide insight and wisdom to all of the so called 'bangers out there who were tooling around with the nu-metal movement. Now the nu-metal movement is sitting on attic shelves with the New Kids On The Block souvenir cups and the XFL bottle openers. We now have a HUGE movement stateside that is allowing tons of bands to provide simple guitar riffs that showcase occasional melody with the black/death/screaming vocals.

Call it screamo, call it hardcore, call it New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. This is what happens when you point out to mainstream America a niche or sub-genre that needs to be explored. Things fall apart and you are left with King Kong atop the tower cowering from an angry mob.

I feel like King Kong.

Here at Maximum Metal we do get our share of label CD submissions and indy bands wanting demos and self-released albums reviewed. I have a stack of "promos" sitting here and I swear to God every band sounds identical. I have something here from The Wake and it sounds like another band called Starweather, which sounds like another promo like She Said Destroy or Manngard or something or another. Then about 50% of the indy bands are sending the identical album with less production values.

I'm sure if I dissected each and every release that is in that genre I can probably hear a different guitar tone, or faster double bass, or maybe more production here or there, but what the Hell can you honestly say about this stuff? How much talent does it take to play a groove riff and find someone to stand in front of a microphone and scream? If it isn't bad enough to get "free" CD listens to all of these below par bands, the mainstream public wants you, the casual metal fan, to rejoice and embark on a BUYING spree to pick up NOT ONLY one or two bands that sound this way, BUT 50 OR 60! We read about every "preposition inspired" band like As I Lay Dying, Every Time I Die, All That Remains, and Today It Dies (or something to that effect) in Revolver, Guitar World, Decibel, Metal Maniacs, and a host of other metal zines that specialize in today's heavy metal scene. As if the words and music aren't enough, tune in to MTV2 and watch Headbanger's Ball play dozens of screaming, angry, talentless bands who put on display antics and expressions that refuse to entertain, instead feeding the needs and urges to either intimidate or anger the masses. There are no soaring melodies or anything remotely interesting musically or lyrically. I mean this stuff sounds like the labels are just grabbing anyone who can play a groove riff.

Singing doesn't matter.

Drum skills zero.

Bass lines aren't even evident.

Guitars are the equivalent of a wash machine on fast cycle.

In a lot of ways we are subjecting ourselves to standards well below the glam metal movement. Back then you had to at least dress up nicely, have a fairly good voice, and you had to have the ability to provide some sort of stage antics no matter how silly or over the top. Today we have kids dressed in Old Navy dockers and a t-shirt that isn't flamboyant or metal. We have terrible vocals, a terrible stage show, and absolutely no originality or entertainment. The bands that I've seen on Headbanger's Ball and live just simply stand there. No interaction with the crowd, absolutely no girls, and no desire to go beyond their realm to inspire or uplift anyone watching.

It amazes me that we have so many great hard rock bands out there but nobody gives a damn. Has Candlelight heard these Swedish rockers like Hardcore Superstars/Crystal Pistol/Crash Diet that have NO DOMESTIC distribution? Does The End Records care? Does Nuclear Blast care? Century Media? Earache? Metal Blade?

There are a ton of great singers out there but we are passing them up just so we can hear the equivalent of a man caught in a woodchipper. It amazes me that the brand new The Quill record, WHICH IS THE BEST DAMN ALBUM OF THE YEAR, has no domestic distribution. I've called the US office of SPV (the European label for The Quill) looking for some way to order it and they don't even know who the Hell The Quill is.

Why are we concerning ourselves with D grade metal bands when there are a ton of new bands out there that have talent, originality, and the desire and will to play anytime to anyone? Anyone out there who is tired of hearing MTV's version of heavy metal, look to these bands for inspiration.

October 31
Astral Doors
The Quill
Crash Diet
Hardcore Superstar
Zero Down
Danko Jones

The list goes on and on and on....

On and on and on.....

It's Heaven over Hell.

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